Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Chair

Joseph St. Marie

Committee Chair School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 2

Robert Pauly

Committee Member 2 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 3

Tom Lansford

Committee Member 3 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 4

Shahdad Naghshpour

Committee Member 4 School

Social Science and Global Studies


Removing embedded corruption depends on 12 state characteristics and mechanisms that reduce patronage network influence and protection. This reduction cannot happen swiftly and requires staged and strategic planning to prevent state collapse, and generally prioritizes petty corruption shifts before grand corruption. Two foundational characteristics are necessary for nations to enact serious reforms: the existence of a core anti-corruption ideology group that controls the government, and political will to enforce said ideology at the state level. Without these two, anti-corruption efforts are half-hearted and ineffective and leads to state perpetuation of graft. This core group and leadership is responsible to enact the subsequent 10 key institutions, including: creation and empowerment of an anti-corruption agency (ACA); implement a phased and sectoral approach to reducing corruption; enforce rule of law; embed autonomy, especially in the ACA; enact state narratives and public messaging; change institutional cultures of corruption; prosecute all reported corruption cases; reduce the size of bureaucracy; implement broad bureaucratic automation tools; and fund long-term development plans that focus on funding to education, health, and agriculture.

This dissertation examines four East African case studies of reducing corruption and implementing these reforms in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Rwanda. The field-based research includes elite level interviews with regime insiders, academics, state officials, anti-corruption reformers, and patronage network profiteers. Rwanda is far surpassing its East African neighbors in reducing corruption because it has core political leadership and will to enact reform, though primarily at the petty corruption level, and has translated these reforms into improvement in state services and efficiency. Rwanda’s transition from successful police and bureaucratic petty corruption reforms to reductions in grand corruption networks remains limited but can serve as a future roadmap for African states if Kagame’s government continues to follow Singapore/Asian Tiger anti-corruption reforms over the next 15 years. Doctrinally-weak development models in East Africa, embedded with corruption, are largely proving insufficient to fund vital pro-poor sectors (health, education, and agriculture), but strong mechanisms are emerging and identified that can help unembed corruption in East Africa.

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